25 Incredible Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has been dubbed “the marvelous city,” and anyone who’s been there gets it. From world-class beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana to the iconic Christ the Redeemer, Brazil’s most famous monument, everyone knows Rio. Tijuca Forest in the heart of the city is the world’s largest urban rainforest with waterfalls, exotic plant and animal life, and plenty of eco-tour opportunities. Rio’s insanely high-energy nightlife includes Pedra do Sal, home to Rio de Janeiro’s samba and choro music scene. Photo: ekaterina_belova/Fotolia


»Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach


Copacabana Beach stretches over three miles along Avenida Atlantica and is known as one of the world’s most beautiful and famous beaches. With activities up and down the beach, it’s easy to stay entertained for an entire vacation. Beach sports are big here; volleyball nets line the beach, and soccer courts are available too, as well as training equipment for a quick beach workout. After working up a sweat, sit back and enjoy the beautiful ocean vistas while grabbing some fresh coconut water. There are many bars and restaurants along the beach; travelers should check out Confeitaria Colombo – a popular spot for food and drinks among the locals.

Avenida Atlantica and Rua Paula Freitas, Zona Sul, Rio de Janeiro, BR 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: ekaterina_belova/Fotolia

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»Carioca Tropical Tour Operator

Carioca Tropical Tour Operator


Carioca Tropical Tour Operator offers a truly personalized travel experience in Rio de Janeiro. Multi-lingual guides pick guests up directly from their hotels in a few different locations – Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. The expedited pick-up process takes between 20 and 30 minutes, which helps maximize the excursion time. Guests can see Christ the Redeemer up close and without the crowds, skip the line at Rio Scenarium – one of Rio’s hottest night clubs – or simply spend the day exploring the great city of Rio de Janeiro. Whatever the choice, the expert guides at Carioca Tropical Tour will provide an unforgettable experience.

Avenue Nossa Sra. de Copacabana, 534 - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-25-47-63-27 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/Fotolia

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»Catedral Metropolitana

Catedral Metropolitana


When visiting Rio de Janeiro, visitors won’t want to miss Catedral Metropolitana, a historic site nestled in the heart of Rio. Based on the Mayan architectural style of pyramids, this modern-day rendition looks oddly out of place in downtown Rio. However, once inside, something magical happens. Spectacular 64-meter-tall stained glass windows appear as though they’re reaching for the heavens above with their vibrant array of colors. Designed by Edgar Fonseca and built between 1964 and 1979, this church is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro. A statue of the saint is near one of the cathedral’s side entrances.

Av. Chile, 245 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-22-40-26-69 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: mandritoiu/Fotolia

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»Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil

Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil

The Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil was established in 1986 and has three different sites in Brazil – Brasilia, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro – with the Rio site being the largest. The three museums are among the top 100 most visited art museums in the world, and the Rio site is ranked #20. The museum in Rio de Janeiro is housed in a 1906 neoclassical building designed by Francisco Joaquim Bethencourt da Silva that was completely restored before opening in 1989. It has theaters, a cinema, and multiple art galleries. There is also a tea room and a restaurant where visitors can relax between galleries.

Primeiro de Marco 66, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-38-08-20-20 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil

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»Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer


Considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world, and the second largest statue of Jesus in the world, Christ the Redeemer is Brazil’s most famous monument. Made from concrete and soapstone, the iconic Christ the Redeemer was designed by local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and was sculpted by Frenchman Paul Landowski. The monument’s construction began in 1922 and finished in 1931. Well known for the breathtaking views overlooking Rio from Corcovado peak and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the world in 2007, it’s a must-visit when in Rio.

Parque Nacional da Tijuca - Alto da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro, BR 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: f11photo/Fotolia

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»Prainha Beach

Prainha Beach


A short drive southwest of Rio de Janeiro leads visitors to a secluded half-moon shaped beach surrounded by high cliffs and rocks. This out-of-the-way beach is the ideal location for surfing some beautiful breaks. Because of the natural land formation here, the waves hit fast and large, and with them comes a strong undertow. Going deep into the water here should be reserved for those with a lot of surfing or swimming experience. It’s best to make arrangements with taxis recommended by the hotel to be dropped off and picked up at the beach. If hunger strikes, surfers can make their way up to Mirante da Prainha, a casual restaurant overlooking the beach.

Grumari, Rio de Janeiro, BR, 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: sergojpg/Fotolia

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»Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach


Ipanema Beach is a vivacious beach located between Arpoador Beach and Leblon Beach, and it is known to house some of Rio’s wealthiest residents. Known as the “little Paris” of Rio, the area is popular for its avant-garde style galleries, movie theatres, and bookstores. Every Sunday it plays host to the Hippie Fair, where local vendors get the chance to showcase some of their artistry. Visit Benkei for its famous sushi, pop into Casa de Feijoada for authentic Brazilian Feijoada, or check out Garota de Ipanema for a delicious cocktail. Ipanema Beach, renowned for its beautiful sunsets, is another must-visit beach while in Rio de Janeiro.

Avenida Vieira Southo (from Avenidas Rainha Elizabeth to Epitácio Pessoa), Ipanema, BR 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: ekaterina_belova/Fotolia

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»Largo do Boticario

Largo do Boticario


Located in the Cosme Velho neighborhood tucked behind the Corcovado Mountain, Largo do Boticario is a famous square known for its beautiful examples of late 18th century Portuguese colonial architecture. With its brightly painted buildings and welcoming local painters and art dealers, travelers will enjoy an intimate traditional experience here. Away from the hustle and bustle of the beach scene and surrounded by Atlantic Forest vegetation, Largo do Boticario will provide a slower and more laid back atmosphere for its visitors. While in the neighborhood, travelers will also want to check out the Rio Carioca and the Corcovado Railway.

Beco do Boticário, s/n - Cosme Velho, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-2-10-00-00-00 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Karol Kozlowski/Fotolia

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»Morro da Urca

Morro da Urca


Situated in the neighborhood of Urca near the eastern edge of Rio de Janeiro’s Zone Sul, Morro da Urca is a popular mountain for locals and travelers who enjoy hiking. With a summit elevation of 722 feet and a roundtrip trail length of two miles, this hike typically takes anywhere from one to 1.5 hours to complete and is considered an easy hike. On the way up, hikers can expect to see large beautiful trees with huge root systems, wooden stairs carved into the hillside, and maybe even some marmosets (little monkeys). At the summit, hikers are rewarded with a beautiful view of Botafogo and the Guanabara Bay. 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Celso Diniz/Fotolia

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»Morro Dois Irmaos

Morro Dois Irmaos


Found in the beautiful neighborhood of Vidigal, Morro Dois Irmaos has a summit elevation of 1,748 feet above sea level. From the trailhead, it’s about 2 miles roundtrip. The hike itself should only take a couple of hours, but allow more time for getting to the trailhead. The easiest and fastest way to get to the trailhead is by favela motorbikes; what takes them 10 minutes could easily be a difficult 1.5-hour walk. After reaching the summit, hikers can expect to see some of the most astounding 360 degree views of Rio de Janeiro below.

Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro - State of Rio de Janeiro, 22450-242, Brazil Phone: +5-52-19-83-94-49-28 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: R.M. Nunes/Fotolia

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»Museu de Arte do Rio

Museu de Arte do Rio


This art museum opened in March, 2013 and immediately received acclaim for its architectural design, winning the world’s highest international architectural award, the Architizer A+ award. The museum is made up of two buildings connected by a walkway via the fifth floor, and with a wave-inspired structure above the roofs, this museum is certainly eye-catching and unique in design. Exhibitions include sculptures, paintings, historical pieces, and pictures that provide visitors with a detailed look into Brazilian civilization and Rio’s historical roots. Maua restaurant on the 6th floor offers not only a quick bite between exhibits, but also striking views of Guanabara Bay.

Praça Mauá, 5 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-30-31-27-41 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: dabldy/Fotolia

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»Museu do Amanha

Museu do Amanha


The stunningly beautiful Museum of Tomorrow is an experimental science museum that sits on 15,000 square meters along Rio de Janeiro’s harbor. The building’s futuristic design by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was inspired by the bromeliads of Rio’s Botanic Garden. Conceptually, the museum aims to actively explore modern life and chart new possible paths of existence with science, technology, and art. Exhibitions explore climate change, biodiversity, growing population and human longevity, cultural integration, and advanced technologies. Leisure areas surrounding the museum include gardens, reflecting pools, bike lanes, and contemplative spaces, and they add another interactive dimension to this beautiful museum.

Praça Mauá, 1 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-38-12-18-00 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Museu do Amanha

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»Pao de Acucar

Pao de Acucar


Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) sits on a peninsula that extends out into the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Guanabara Bay, reaching a height of 1,299 feet. It is looked upon as the “Tourist Jewel” of the marvelous city. Thanks to the Sugarloaf Cable Car Company, guests can ascend this peak on two separate cars in approximately three minutes. The Swiss-made glass-walled cable cars offer majestic 360 degree views on the ascent up the mountain, overlooking Rio de Janeiro and offering expansive vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. This aerial tramway, built in 1912, put Rio de Janeiro on the travel map.

Avenida Pasteur, 520, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-25-46-84-33 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: R.M. Nunes/Fotolia

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»Pedra do Sal

Pedra do Sal


A historical and religious site, Pedra do Sal is home to Rio de Janeiro’s samba and choro music scene, located in the neighborhood of Saude. Pedra do Sal is considered the center of an area known locally as “Little Africa,” which gets its nickname from the slavery era during which many escaped and freed slaves sought refuge here. Today, patrons can find themselves on the steps of the pedra listening to samba da roda sessions in what can only be described as an easygoing and casual atmosphere. After a night of music and dancing, visitors can head to nearby Café e Restaurante Gacioso for an authentic Brazilian meal.

R. Argemiro Bulcão, S/N - Saúde, Rio de Janeiro, BR 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: dabldy/Fotolia

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»Bike in Rio Tours

Bike in Rio Tours


Bike in Rio Tours offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore and learn about the marvelous city from expert tour guides who have an intense passion for their community. They feature three distinct tours: the Rio City Bike Tour, Rio Jungle Bike Tour, and the Beaches and Lagoon Tour. On the city tour, guests will go to various historical and natural attractions. The jungle tour rides through Tijuca Forest and stops at the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. The beach tour takes visitors through Rio’s Zona Zul, stopping at places like Copacabana. For those who want an extended experience, they also offer a Full City Tour.

R. Carvalho de Mendonça, 24 - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +5-52-19-80-89-33-93 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: filipefoto/Fotolia

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»Rio Maximo

Rio Maximo


Rio Maximo is located in the neighborhood of Copacabana just a few yards away from one of the world’s most famous beaches. One of their most popular tours whisks guests away on a boat to Angra dos Reis, a region comprised of 365 beautiful and unique islands, Ihla Grande being one of them. This particular excursion lasts approximately 14 hours. Several other tours include Buzios, a seaside resort with dive opportunities on the way, a behind-the-scenes Carnival rehearsal at samba school, and a tour of Petrópolis, the Imperial City, home to Emperor Dom Pedro II, the last ruler of the Empire of Brazil.

R. Alm. Gonçalves, 15 - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-34-77-93-88 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/Fotolia

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»Saara

Saara


Saara (Sociedade de Amigos das Adjacências da Rua da Alfândega) is a collection of shops and stalls that spans eleven blocks in downtown Rio de Janeiro. With over 1,200 shops, visitors can find anything from sequins and beads to electronics to kitchen appliances. Travelers should be prepared for a lively adventure though, as this huge retail district is packed full of people shopping and vendors selling. Saara gets particularly crazy around the time of the Carnival – with so many shops and stalls filled with glittery accessories and wild (sometimes gaudy) fabric, it’s really the only place for getting into costume for Carnival.

R. da Alfândega, 278 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro, BR 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Kseniya Ragozina/Fotolia

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»Sao Bento Monastery

Sao Bento Monastery


The Sao Bento Monastery is located in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Built between 1617 and 1641, it’s regarded as one of the finest colonial churches in Brazil. The outer stately appearance gives no indication to the opulent beauty within. Inside, guests will appreciate the ornate baroque design heavily decorated in gold, along with intricate wood carvings created by Frei Domingos da Conceicao and Alexandre Machado. On Sundays, high mass begins at 10 a.m. to the sounds of the Benedictine monks’ Gregorian chants. Churchgoers will want to arrive early, as the Sunday service at the popular monastery fills up fast.

R. Dom Gerardo, 40 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-22-06-81-00 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: filipefrazao/Fotolia

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»Gavea Golf and Country Club

Gavea Golf and Country Club


In 1926, architects Gil Hanse and Stanley Thompson designed Gavea Golf and Country Club. The course has a length of 5,986 yards from the blue tees, and it is a truly unique piece of property. It is carved out along the Rio de Janeiro coast, and golfers have incredibly gorgeous and expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains surrounding the club and course. Equipped with locker rooms, a playground for children, a pool, bar and restaurant, Gavea Golf, and Country Club has all of the comforts and amenities members and guests would expect to find at a high-end country club.

Estr. da Gávea, 800 - São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-33-23-60-50 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Gavea Golf and Country Club

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»The Sao Cristovao Market

The Sao Cristovao Market


Located in the neighborhood of Sao Cristovao this large fair/market has almost 700 stalls, shops, restaurants, bars, stages, and dance floors. The market is open for lunch Tuesday through Thursday, but the party really starts once the weekend comes around. The home away from home for Rio’s nordestino community (a community characterized by a lack of wealth), it is known for bargain market prices that hold much allure. From 10 a.m. Friday morning to 10 p.m. Sunday night, all the stalls and restaurants never close and are very much alive. Great music and generous portions of food are a common theme here.

Campo de São Cristóvão, s/n - São Cristóvão, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-25-80-69-46 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/Fotolia

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»Theatro Municipal

Theatro Municipal


Located in Cinelandia at the heart of Rio de Janeiro, this beautiful theater was built in the beginning of the twentieth century, then renovated, modernized, and reopened in 1978. The eclectic building bears the inscribed names of classic Brazilian and Eurocentric artists on its outside walls. Located near the National Fine Arts Museum and National Library, the theater overlooks the grand Cinelandia Square. Theatro Municipal boasts a luxurious interior with paintings by Rodolfo Amoedo and Eliseu Visconti and sculptures by Henrique Bernardelli. In the basement, visitors will find a unique dining experience at the restaurant Assirius, featuring impressive Assyrian décor.

Praça Floriano, S/N - Centro, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-23-32-91-91 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: lazyllama/Fotolia

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»Tijuca Forest

Tijuca Forest


Part of the 15-square-mile Tijuca National Park, Tijuca Forest is widely regarded as the world’s largest urban rainforest, providing a good deal of fresh water and rain for the city of Rio de Janeiro. This forest covers the Pedra Bonita and Corcovado Mountains and extends throughout the mountainous region behind the Lagoa, Tijuca and Gavea neighborhoods. It is replete with a variety of animal species, waterfalls, beautiful vistas, hiking trails, topical plants, and trees, and there is little doubt visitors will be left in awe by the beauty and grandeur of this rain forest. It’s an absolute must-visit location when in Rio.

Spans 12.4 square miles over Rio de Janeiro, BR 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: lazyllama/Fotolia

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»Eat Rio Food Tours

Eat Rio Food Tours

What better way to explore a new city than experience its food culture while rubbing elbows with the locals – Eat Rio Food Tours offers just that kind of experience. With expert tour guides, small groups will be guided to little bars, restaurants, and bustling street markets on foot to get a taste of the local favorites Rio has to offer. The tour is not restricted to Carioca food, as guests will get the chance to try dishes, fruits, and beverages from other regions to experience a broader range of Brazilian flavors. Tours also stop at the famous Carioca Aqueduct and Selarón Steps, and guides share insider tips for further exploring the city.

Rua da Gloria 374, Gloria, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +5-52-19-88-10-90-00 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: paul_brighton/Fotolia

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»Jungle Me – Hiking and Trekking Ecotours

Jungle Me – Hiking and Trekking Ecotours

One of the most adventurous things you can do in Rio is hiking the city’s urban jungle. Jungle Me tours is Rio’s premier hiking and trekking ecotour provider, and guests continue to rave about the unique tour experiences they offer. Travelers will have an opportunity to explore one of the world’s largest urban forests, Tijuca, with waterfalls, caves, ruins, high peaks, and suspension bridges. Guests can choose from a menu of tours, including a 50-minute express walk, a comprehensive “big circuit” hike, an adventure hike, and a family hike. This sustainable tour company remains carbon neutral while providing one-of-a-kind trekking experiences.

Leme, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +55-21-41-05-75-33 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: earlytwenties/Fotolia

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»Rio Free Walking Tour

Rio Free Walking Tour

For more than 200 years Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil, and Rio Free Walking Tours offers two separate and unique tours to showcase the history and culture of this beautiful city. The first – and the original of the two tours – is the Historic Center tour. Here patrons will have the chance to visit historical sites like the Aqueducts da Lapa, Metropolitan Cathedral, Selarón staircase, and more. The second of the tours takes place in the Revitalized Port Area where guests will see the New Museum of Tomorrow, Rio Art Museum, and Pedra do Sal. Each tour takes approximately three hours, and they’re free!

Praca Marechal Floriano | Cinelandia, Rio de Janeiro, BR, Phone: +5-52-19-86-00-25-93 25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro - Photo: Kseniya Ragozina/Fotolia

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25 Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro